Hillary Atkin

Handicapping the Races for Best Actor and Actress in a Comedy

Sep 17, 2009

New blood is always a good thing, and the marquee Emmy category for best actor in a comedy series is comprised of 33% of it.

But those fresh faces are up against four major comedy heavyweights, including last year’s winner, Alec Baldwin.

 And the other nominees are:
Steve Carell, The Office
Jemaine Clement, Flight of the Conchords
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Tony Shalhoub, Monk
Charlie Sheen, Two and a Half Men

As the reigning king of Emmy comedy, most pundits and odds makers agree that Baldwin will keep the throne for his role as network television executive Jack Donaghy on "30 Rock." He also won the Golden Globe earlier this year for the role.

As The New York Times’ Brian Stelter noted, “The plotline with his romance in the middle of season gave him some great opportunities that he didn’t have in the last season.”

More than that, many Emmy voters don’t necessarily identify with the character, but resonate to their familiarity with real-life versions of Donaghy, the pompous, self-centered boss everyone loves to hate.

Mickey Richardson, CEO of Bookmaker.com, gives Baldwin a 61% chance of adding an Emmy to his trophy case.

But Baldwin has other Emmy royalty to contend with—like Shalhoub, as the brilliant but annoyingly neurotic San Francisco detective Adrian Monk, who carted home the statuette for his role on “Monk” in 2003, 2005 and 2006, and has been nominated every year since 2003.

And then there’s the drolly funny Steve Carell, who’s logged a nod in each of the last four years for the clueless, idiosyncratic boss he plays on “The Office.” He won a Globe for the role of Michael Scott in 2006, but so far, no golden Emmy true love.

It’s the same exact scorecard for Charlie Sheen, recognized four years running now for his turn as the womanizing Malibu beach house bachelor Charlie Harper on “Two and a Half Men.” Sheen can certainly nail the ladies, but maybe not the trophy.

Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" is getting some strong Emmy buzz for his performance as Sheldon Cooper, a geeky physicist who is both oblivious and imperious to everyday life and human relationships. "Sheldon is right up there. It’s a classic comedy performance that keeps getting funnier," says TV Guide’s Matt Roush.

The other first-timer, Jemaine Clement, not only co-stars in HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” but composes music, writes and produces the cult hit show. He’s one of New Zealand’s biggest stars, but as part of a “digi-bongo a cappella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo” gigging around New York City, he plays a barely coping loser doomed to musical obscurity. He’ll enter a whole new dimension if, as a long-shot, he gets the last laugh on Sunday.

———–The Funniest Women on Television——————–

They may know she was "F-ing Matt Damon," but Emmy voters may not know that much else about the surprise entrant into the exclusive club of the funniest women on television. Yet Sarah Silverman nabbed one of the six coveted slots in the lead actress in a comedy series race.

Silverman’s brand of edgy comedy, bringing her sexuality and Jewishness to the fore in a way many people find offensive—and others find uproariously funny—is shaking up the contest. The other spots are all occupied by acclaimed actresses in more traditional shows who are veterans of the awards show circuit, proud owners of multiple trophies.

These are the other leading ladies in contention:
Christina Applegate, Samantha Who?
Toni Collette, United States of Tara
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, The New Adventures of Old Christine
Tina Fey, 30 Rock
Mary-Louise Parker, Weeds

Julia Louis Dreyfus, Mary Louise Parker and Tina Fey have all been here before (and I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing all of them, as well as their fellow nominee Christina Applegate), and they all deserve to be this time as well, joined by Toni Collette, whose star turn as a mom with multiple personalities in Showtime’s “The United States of Tara” obviously turned Emmy voters’ heads.

Fey will be riding the tidal wave not only of "30 Rock’s" record-breaking 22 nominations, but of her win last year in this category. Not only did her character Liz Lemon get a new love interest this year (fellow nominee Jon Hamm), but Emmy voters are clearly still madly in love with her.

And of course, her buzz from this season was intensified by her deft, iconic portrayal of Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” last fall, which drew critical raves and huge numbers of viewers—and just won her a Creative Arts Emmy last weekend.

Was it all part of a master plan by Fey, who as well as taking home the statuette last year as the lead actress in a comedy series also grabbed Emmys as a producer and writer of "30 Rock?"

Tina Fey is ruling the world right now, and we’re just living in it.

Bookmaker.com gives Fey a 67% chance of adding to her collection of Emmys. But the competition is stiff, stiff, stiff. The Emmys love JLD and MLP, and Ms. Applegate may draw a large sympathy vote, both for “Samantha Who?” being shown the door and for her high-profile battle with breast cancer.

Even Silverman might have trouble coming up with some jokes about that.

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